Shining a Light on Breast Health at Humber
Thousands of women in Canada are diagnosed with breast cancer each year – the stats currently sit at 1 in 8 Canadian women will develop breast cancers during her lifetime. For the women who turn to Humber River Hospital to monitor, treat and recover from breast health issues, our team of doctors, technologists and nurses have created a one-stop shop that brings together the best in technology and compassion.
We spoke to surgeons Dr. Laura Whiteacre and Dr. Melinda Maggisano about the breast health program at Humber, the essential care they provide to the community and what personally drives them in their work.
One Stop Shop
“Everything we do in our Breast Health Clinic is designed around the patient,” explains Dr. Maggisano. “We have created a Clinic where everything is here – screening, diagnosis, care planning and treatment. Some services can even happen all in the same visit, making it easier on the patient.”
The many stand-outs in the Clinic include:
- Screening – patients are encouraged to come to Humber routinely for their mammogram, or if they want a second opinion from our surgeons and radiologists on a test done somewhere else, all they have to do is bring a copy of the film on a CD with them
- Same-day biopsies – for patients who require a biopsy, the appointment includes the procedure itself, analysis and results all in the same day – this cuts down on multiple appointments over many days
- Care planning – nurse navigators help patients through every step of the care journey, including coordinating surgery, post-treatment care and living their best life through recovery
Newest Innovations in Breast Surgery
In a collaboration between the surgery and medical imaging programs, breast seed localization is now being done at Humber. This improves on the more widely used system where a wire is inserted into breast tissue to help mark cancerous tissue.
According to Dr. Whiteacre: “There are great benefits to the patient when we are able to use breast seed localization to identify cancerous tissue. It’s more comfortable (there are no wires sticking out of the breast) and it helps surgeons better target the abnormal tissue during lumpectomies – this helps preserve more of the healthy breast.”
Breast seed localization is a procedure where a tiny metal seed, about the size of a small sesame seed, is placed into abnormal breast tissue a week before surgery to mark its location. It may be done if the abnormal tissue is too small to be seen or felt by hand. The seed contains a small amount of radiation. During surgery, the surgeon uses a special tool to find the breast seed and the surrounding abnormal tissue which is then removed.
“Personally in the last few years, I’ve had two of my close friends receive a breast cancer diagnosis, stage four, both in their thirties,” shares Dr. Maggisano. “I think of them all the time throughout my work in treating breast cancer patients in our community. Every time I have difficult news to share with a patient, or need to comfort a family member, I treat them the way I would want my dear friends to be treated. We know what it’s like to be on the other side of healthcare, and those experiences drive our compassionate care.”
“I love our community and really enjoy working with our patients through their breast health journeys,” explains Dr. Whiteacre. “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, so I can give patients who receive difficult news a lot of perspective about what’s happening to them and what’s in store during their care. When I can calm people down after they have received difficult news, I feel like I am making a difference. And of course, seeing people after they have recovered, living their lives is also a great joy.”
Have you received care in Humber’s Breast Health Clinic? Thank the team who went above and beyond with a donation in their name! Visit www.giftsofgratitude.ca to donate today – we will let them know of your kindness and they’ll receive a pin to wear proudly.